Featured image of Walmer Castle

The History of Walmer Castle

LocationWalmer, Kent, England (Google Maps)
Open for VisitorsYes
Owned byEnglish Heritage
Official WebsiteWalmer Castle
Rooms AvailableYes (Theatre, circus, occasions)

Walmer Castle is an artillery fort that was originally constructed to safeguard England from the invasion of France and the Holy Roman Empire. It is situated in the city of Walmer, England, and is registered as a scheduled monument under the National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.

History of Walmer Castle

Constructed in 1540 by Henry VIII, Walmer Castle was basically built to store weapons as part of the King’s Device programme to safeguard England from the invasion of France and the Holy Roman Empire. The castle was made out of moated stone comprising a keep and four circular bastions. In the 18th century, Walmer castle was reformed from a military fortification to a residential building when it became the official residence of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. The castle was a Tudor castle and was also resided by various politicians appointed as Lord Warden, including William Pitt, the Duke of Wellington, and Lord Granville. These gentlemen also constructed huge gardens around the property, spread across 32 acres of land. 

The castle was both a residence and an office for the Ministry of Works. By 1904, it was decided by the war office that there was no other military utility of the Walmer Castle, and it was passed onto the Ministry of Works. The castle continued to be a residence to the Lord of Wardens and was also open to the public for visitation. After World War II, the Lord of Wardens were changed and included Winston Churchill, Robert Menzies, and Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother. Still, they only made intermittent use of Walmer Castle. In the 21st century, The castle was bought by English Heritage, a charity that manages more than four hundred monuments, and was run as a tourist attraction by them.

Architecture

Walmer Castle aerial view
Walmer Castle aerial view”, by Lieven Smits, is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Walmer Castle retains most of its 16th-century structure with a tall fortified tower surrounded by four bastions. The castle consists of its moat and a severed gatehouse. The castle also has three tiers of artillery with different regions occupied by various styles of artillery, the heaviest based on the topmost floor in the castle, followed by 39 firing positions and 31 gun loops in the basement. The castle’s entrance is through the ground floor of the gatehouse that contains the original porter’s lodge. The middle part of the castle is a tall fortified structure used as a servants’ quarter and is now used as a tea room for guests and visitors of the castle.

The four bastions of the castle are converted into hall rooms and museum objects to engage the guests. Two unique rooms, namely Sackville and Wellington Rooms, were built in the castle during the 18th century. The Wellington Room is used as a museum to display objects related to William Pitt. Apart from the two, there are other rooms in the castle as well, such as the Lucas Room that has been redecorated in a mid-19th century style. It is used to present various items of Wellington memorabilia.

The castle’s second floor includes Lord Warden’s private apartments, now converted into luxury stays. The castle consists of other rooms as well, including The Prince Consort’s and Queen Victoria’s rooms, The Dining Room, Drawing Room, and Ante Room. The castle also has a picturesque garden of around 32 acres of land split evenly between ornamental gardens and parkland. The garden was designed by Penelope Hobhouse and incorporated both Islamic and contemporary themes. The gardens also have a few magnificent glasshouses, kitchen gardens, a few of which have been turned into tennis courts now.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who lived in Walmer Castle?

The Lord of Wardens originally was entitled to live in Walmer Castle. The five famous prime ministers, William Pitt, Lord Liverpool, the Duke of Wellington, Lord Palmerston, and Lord Salisbury, also resided at the palace at different times. The Duke of Wellington loved the castle and kept it in good repair to come and stay in most summers. Winston Churchill, Robert Menzies, and Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, stayed there.

Who died at Walmer Castle?

The Duke of Wellington died at Walmer Castle. His death bedroom has also been recreated to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. In 1906, Lord Curzon’s wife also died at the castle, for which he blamed the poor conditions in which it was kept.

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